Keep the Wolves Away from the Flock
Call Scooby in for Supper

Paragould Daily Press [United States]
Downloaded February 26, 2004

The mystery's already been solved.

According to a report -- prepared by a couple of experts and released on Monday by the Vatican -- the reason so many young boys have been sexually molested by Roman Catholic priests in the United States is the zero-tolerance policy toward such behavior that has been adopted by American bishops.

No ... I'm not kidding.

Quoting an article which appeared in Tuesday's edition of The New York Times:

"The 219-page report, titled 'Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church: Scientific and Legal Perspectives,' casts that policy (zero-tolerance for child-molesting perverts of the cloth, I'm assuming) as an overreaction to the public outcry over the issue by Catholic Church leaders in the United States and as potentially counterproductive in trying to keep children safe from sexual abuse."

That's only the second paragraph of the article, and already, I'm having serious misgivings as to the expertise of these "experts." Granted, I'm basically nothing more than an ignorant farm boy who went and got himself a little book learnin', but I really don't understand how exposing and defrocking a child-molesting priest could possibly be "counterproductive" to the goal of keeping children safe from sexual predation.

But it gets even better.

Evidence paragraph No. 3:

"The report included expressions of concern that sexually abusive priests who are cast out of the ministry and pushed away from the church might be more likely to continue their abusive behavior because they would be isolated, and their behavior would be less likely to be monitored."

So ... would that last statement be in reference to the way their behavior has been monitored over the past 30 years or so? Would it be something akin to the way church officials shuttled Father John J. Goeghan from parish to parish even after they knew -- not suspected, knew -- he was a pedophile?

Well, like I said before, I'm just an ignorant farm boy, but even ignorant farm boys can learn stuff if they keep their eyes open.

For example, did you know that if you have a farm dog, you must make absolutely certain that the dog never tastes blood? For if he does, the taste will linger; like an unbreakable addiction, it will call to his more primitive instincts like the tug of a Siren's Song ... and he will respond. Once a dog kills stock -- even so much as a single, newly hatched chick -- that dog is a killer.

You'll never cure him.

It doesn't make him a bad dog; it simply makes him a dog that's no longer fit to be in the vicinity of livestock. "Monitoring" his behavior only means you'll watch a lot of calves get their throats torn out.

According to everything I've ever read, a child molester is the same way. There is no known cure. The pedophile will return again and again to the thing he craves, and no amount of shame or degradation will ever deter him; he will return so long as he has access to the object of his misguided passion.

This doesn't mean that a pedophile priest should be cast out of the church. Quite the contrary, the church exists to convey the love and redemption of God. And which of us needs love and redemption any more than the pedophile, who quite probably doesn't understand his sick compulsions any better than we?

But to allow such "priests" to continue in the ministry, to give them unfettered access to children, to retain them in positions of considerable authority and ultimate trust ... it's madness. It's like tossing the stock-killing dog back into the hen house, then wondering why all the chickens have turned up dead.

Earlier on, I mentioned the recently deceased Father Goeghan, so I suppose it's a pretty grisly coincidence that, from the selfsame edition of The New York Times, I took a second article, this one reporting the death of 29-year-old Patrick McSorley. His body was found on Monday in a friend's Boston apartment; the cause of death was not immediately known.

In case his name isn't as familiar as Goeghan's, McSorley was one of the more prominent accusers in the Boston sex-abuse scandal. He was only 12 years old when Goeghan -- having learned of the child's father's recent suicide -- offered to take him out for ice cream. Unfortunately, the not-so-right reverend had more on his mind than salving a vulnerable young boy's grief with ice cream and an understanding ear. Long story short, McSorley spent the next 17 years trying to heal the scars Goeghan carved into his soul.

Ultimately, we shall never know whether he succeeded; Patrick McSorley is dead. And perhaps there -- in a premature grave -- he has finally found a bit of that comfort he was so decietfully offered 17 years ago by a kindly, old monster in a collar and a cassock.

I'm sure Goeghan is one of the exceptions. I'm sure that the vast majority of Roman Catholic priests are caring and devoted shepherds who would never dream of harming one of their charges, as, I'm equally sure, are the vast majority of Boy Scout masters, Protestant youth ministers, daycare workers ... and farm dogs.

But isn't that all the more reason to root out the ones who aren't? For the sake of the children -- for the sake of those who truly love and care for the children -- mustn't we ensure that the wolves are kept from the fold?

Aren't the experts wrong this time?

Or it this just another case of a farm boy being true to his ignorance?

Jim Patterson is news editor of the Paragould Daily Press. E-mail him at